“The closer we examine the honeybee, the more we realize the workings of a beehive encompass territories beyond our comprehension.” – Leo Tolstoy
Last month, my friend Troy and I attended our very first Apiarist Society meeting. Troy is a bee newbie, he had only had his hive for a few days at the time.
I would love my own hive, so I went along to swat up. My facination with bees began when I witnessed my first swarm, which you can read about here.
Our local Apiarist Society are a wonderful group, about 60 souls who clearly have a passion for bees. As with gardening, all the people I met were generous characters, cheeky and keen to share both their expertise with friendly encouragement.
With Troy and I both in our mid-thirties, we were probably amongst the youngest people in the room, which makes for a lovely change these days! There were a few other ladies, and the rest of the group comprised of older gentlemen, with every other one of them seemingly named Rodney.
Their discussion on swarming bees was just fascinating. Frankly, if I were a visiting intergalactic alien, I would forget all about anal-probing humans, and instead focus on studying the remarkable collective of individuals that make up a bee colony.
We also met bee-whisperer Dan, who invited us over to checkout his hives, something I am impatient to do. However, I will have to wait a few more weeks until Troy returns from his holidays so we can go together. Then we will leave our respective spouses with the kids to chuckle over how their other-halves have evolved into “Beeks”.
We left the meeting promising to return in a month’s time, keen to learn more.
In the meantime, I have devoured no fewer than seven books about bee keeping, followed all the beekeepers I could find on Twitter, subscribed to a dozen or so bee-based blogs and and watched The Vanishing of the Bees. I’ve gobbled a fair bit of raw honey. Perhaps rather annoyingly, I have bought up bees in almost every conversation I have had since.
Have I mentioned, I would love to have a hive of my own?
Not surprisingly, urban beekeeping is a tad controversial. In our area, bee hives need to be registed with our Department of Agriculture. However, there are a few local councils that ban beekeeping altogether, even choosing spray swarms and kill the bee colony rather than have them collected and rehoused.
I find this really offensive. Often, it’s more expensive to spray them than to collect them. Also if you like to eat, bees are a fact of life. Over 80% of what we consume requires bees somewhere along the chain to pollinate.
Any plant that flowers is a sexual organism. Since flowering plants otherwise lack the ability to jump up and fornicate with a fellow plant that tickles their fancy, most require bees to (ahem) do the job of
No bees, no flower nookie, no fruit and veggies. It’s that simple.
Bees are not aggressive by nature, however, if stepped on or provoked, they do sting, mortally wounding themselves in the process. An estimated 1% of the general population are allergic to bee stings. So of course, (as with any pets or livestock) keeping bees is a big responsibility. Admittedly, with three small kids running around, my own honey would not be worth endangering their well being in their own yard.
But here’s my dilemma. Given that rationale, do I stop planting flowers and veggies altogether? Lest their pollen attract the bees? Replace all my garden with astroturf and paving? As you can see from the photos in this post, I already have lots of bees in my garden and none of my children have ever been stung. I suspect the bees come from a nearby park, where I have seen wild hives before.
The only time I have ever been stung is several years ago when I trod on a bee when walking barefoot in my neighbours’ yard. This result is despite me being unable to resist trying to “pat” visiting bees in my yard! I also stalk them in my garden, like a perverted paparazzi, ready to snap a close-up and so far, they just buzz away, unperturbed.
So what would you recommend? To bee, or not to bee?
I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment below.